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Refinery Profitability Drives FCC Revamps

by L. A. Lacijan Manager FCC Technical Services UOP LLC and M. W. Schnaith Business Development Manager FCC & Alkylation UOP LLC

Each refinery has unique economics that depend on crude selection, processing and equipment capabilities, and local market product values. As the economic drivers for the refinery evolve over time, opportunities to improve profitability will appear. In the FCC unit, these opportunities usually include such items as increased capacity, processing lower-cost heavier feeds, changing product yields, and improving unit reliability. Any FCC revamp poses unique challenges. Due to the wide variety of unit styles, the increasing age of many units, and the typical desire to extend capacity well beyond original design values, the FCC revamp must deal with complexities that transcend normal new unit process design issues. To ensure success, it is important to work with companies that have the technological innovation, experience and service commitment to meet the challenges.
This paper describes three different refinery FCC projects, their constraints, the routes that were taken to revamp the FCC units to improve the profitability of each refinery, and the results of the revamp. In one case, the FCC was modified to produce more petrochemical feedstock because of the local demand and value. In the other cases, higher feed rates of resid were desired to increase crude flexibility, and higher overall feed rates were targeted. UOP was able to study each case and provide the FCC technology to achieve the individual processing objectives consistent with each refiner’s overall goals.



There have been several major revamps where either existing older FCC units were completely replaced or thermal cracking conversion capacity was replaced by catalytic cracking capacity. LA in 1997. and the value of the various conversion products has changed over time. Asia India S. Because of the slow demand growth in refined fuel products over the last decade and the continued projection for slow growth as shown in Table 1.6 3.0 2.6 Population 0.2006 GDP (Short Term) 3. it is possible to expand capacity well beyond original design.5 2000 .4 4. It is more important than ever to optimize the operation of existing refinery assets.1 2. Both of these units were new conversion capacity rather than replacing older units.1 1. Critical Success Factors 2 . have only marginal success. The shrinking margins are particularly difficult because of the pressure to utilize available capital for “necessary” spending on clean fuels and environmental projects that have been legislated.0 1.1 4.1 -0.000 BPD FCC unit in St. or fail to deliver on the promised benefits. East Africa Source: IEA 2003 .3 1. Refiners are challenged with keeping their FCC units working for them.7 2. America Europe OECD Pacific Transition Economies China S. E. Many times FCC revamps do not meet their full potential. Due to the nature of FCC units and the continuing evolution of the technology.2 4.8 3.0 2.6 4.1 The market place has not been stagnant. America M.The last new FCC unit put into operation in North America was an 8000 BPD RFCC unit in Shreveport. Table 1 Region (Average annual growth rates. Prior to that.3 0. the need for increased conversion capacity has been satisfied with revamps rather than new FCC units.3 2.5 1. Most refiners take advantage of this trend in the lifecycle of their FCC unit and continue to revamp older units for greater capacity and product flexibility.0 2.8 4.5 5.2030 GDP (Long Term) 2.0 3. due to existing equipment limitations and constraints that cannot be easily overcome. however. Croix was put into operation in 1993. %) N.1 3. a new 90.6 3.3 7.8 0. But this path carries with it complex challenges.1 0.1 2. Figure 1 shows the trend in refining margins over the last decade.

The success of any FCC revamp will depend on many factors. The final factor that ensures ultimate success for any FCC revamp is ongoing technical service. First on the list is obtaining a quality engineering and technology design for the project. and overall turnaround planning. Predicting process performance in a revamp is more difficult than starting with a clean sheet of paper. staging and erection. all within a limited timetable can be an imposing task. We have the necessary technology. but applied that technology in quite innovative ways. innovative application and engineering skills. attention to detail and ongoing technical service to ensure that your FCC revamp will succeed. When technology upgrades are part of the revamp. Equipment limitations and trade-offs must be properly understood and evaluated to produce a trustworthy revamp design. Once the revamp is commissioned the critical tasks of evaluating and optimizing the performance begin. in terms of commercial experience and performance. FCC Revamp Examples Three cases are presented here of successful revamps to older FCC units. Project execution is another factor that can have a tremendous impact on the overall economics of the revamp. Overall project management has become an increasingly important function for revamps that is frequently outsourced to specialized companies. there are few that bring the specialized knowledge and expertise to ensure success. While there are many companies who can provide engineering services for FCC revamps. as is frequently the case. demolition and construction planning. Proper technical support during this period can be critical to refiners capturing the full economic benefit of their revamp. Each confronted unique challenges and utilized commercially well-proven technology. Combining the elements of equipment procurement. It is not enough to have a quality technology design and project execution plan. UOP executes 15 to 20 FCC revamp projects in any given year. Finding the best way to implement the revamp is critical to making it a viable project in the first place. The following examples serve to illustrate these critical success factors and show how refiners have improved their profitability by revamping the FCC unit to achieve new goals. as many times lack of success can be traced to unforeseen issues. the operations staff may have to relearn how to achieve the best performance. but the ability to apply improved technology in a revamp setting is critical. 3 . Included with this is a realistic projection of the expected benefits. “Expect the unexpected” is perhaps a useful motto to observe during this time. Being able to create innovative solutions to overcome constraints is a skill that can mean the difference between a highly successful revamp project and one that achieves only marginal benefits. Attention to detail is of paramount importance. Many times limitations will create compromises to normal design criteria that can restrict the ability of the technology to deliver. Depending on how dramatic the changes to the unit. not only is the quality of the technology important.

300 BPD and started up in 1980.000 BPD found itself constrained by the capacity and conversion capability of the existing FCC unit1. so a larger vessel was proposed. Because the unit had been revamped so far beyond its original capacity. The refiner set 69. and FCC and Alky unit revamps for capacity increases. The main fractionator and gas concentration section also required modifications for the new conditions. The targets caused the operating conditions in the existing unit to be beyond the capacity of most of the catalyst section. up to 2. During this time. with a capacity of 130. and heavier feed to the FCC.0 wt%. The unit was originally a UOP high efficiency design with a capacity of 29.5 tons per day Charge a heavier feed to the unit.000 BPD Reduce reactor catalyst losses from 5 tons per day to 1.000 BPD with a future capability of 75. was proposed for the regenerator.000 BPD. The existing combustor section was too small for the new coke yield. a new CCR PlatformingTM unit.000 BPD as the new feed rate goal with a heavier feedstock having 2 to 4 degrees API lower gravity and an increased Conradson Carbon residue of 2. UOP performed a revamp feasibility study to analyze the best technical options and weigh their benefits versus cost and implementation. previously used exclusively in the reactor. upgrades and improvements to other units in the refinery occurred that complemented the FCC growth. new OptimixTM feed distributors and a VSS reactor riser disengager were employed. and resulted in the need to replace vessels with larger upgrades. it faced some severe challenges. The feasibility study and economic analysis showed the following goals could be achieved: • • • • • • • Increase capacity to 69. To accommodate the heavier feed and maintain conversion and product selectivity. This allowed the cyclone system to be single stage and essentially halved the required number of cyclones. The plans for the refinery included a crude unit expansion. This unit was revamped several times previously to increase its capacity to 62. The VSSTM.2 wt% Conradson Carbon with an API gravity of 24. TN. A crude unit revamp in 1999 resulted in better recovery of Jet Fuel and Distillate.Case 1 A refinery located in Memphis.4 Reduce cyclone velocities Increase coke burning capacity Expand main column and gas concentration sections Meet scheduled turnaround start date and duration of turnaround 4 . Ultimately UOP was able to retain the existing structure by an innovative solution for catalyst containment in the regenerator. Catalyst section cyclone velocities were high and reliability was poor causing unplanned shutdowns. Reactor catalyst containment was poor with catalyst losses at about 5 tons per day.

As a result of the careful planning and attention to detail. UOP. combined with feed rate increases beyond the original design. and was completed after 25 days. the unit has also achieved the 75. all project objectives for the revamp were met. Changing feed quality. and high flue gas temperatures. a team from the refiner. New equipment was staged adjacent to the operating unit on a temporary structure and pre-inspected to help minimize turnaround time. regenerator superficial velocity. were limiting the performance of the unit.000 BPD (total feed available) within two days of commissioning. was already constrained by the air blower.000 BPD target. A detailed pre-turnaround and turnaround construction schedule was developed based on six 10-hour days for pre-turnaround work and two 12-hours shifts working seven days a week for the turnaround. The new reactor and regenerator configuration selected by the team is shown in Figure 2. A team consisting of refinery personnel. UOP. catalyst circulation rate. The sub-contractors were managed by the IAG project team so that all aspects of the revamp and turnaround execution were coordinated in concert. Case 2 A Gulf coast refinery found that the conversion capability of the existing FCC unit was limiting refinery economics2. and was processing 68. The main column and gas concentration section work was carried out simultaneously. The actual work schedule resulted in a 25 day outage. IAG. A $10 MM maintenance budget for the turnaround was also set at this time. The old reactor. and catalyst standpipes were removed and the new equipment installed in the existing structure.600 BPD. The FCC unit. The plan was for a 21 to 25 day outage to perform all the work. the turnaround started on time. To control the cost and timing of the revamp. A complete scope of work was developed and a capital budget of $35 MM established. The unit was placed back in operation on November 11. wet gas compressor driver. and Andrews Consulting was assembled to evaluate the following refinery objectives: 5 . UOP provided the basic engineering and technology package and IAG provided the project management and execution. The combined capital and maintenance budget of $45 MM was not exceeded. IAG is a company that provides a specialized approach of overall management and implementation for FCC revamps. The shortest possible turnaround time was required to mesh with overall refinery limitations. the scope was “frozen” prior to the start of the project implementation. combustor. The unit was shutdown on October 17 and the revamp progressed as scheduled. Further changes in feed quality were proposed to increase the heavy syncrude percentage processed by the refinery. a stacked Kellogg Orthoflow F originally designed for 30.With this focus. riser. and International Alliance Group (IAG) was assembled to implement the revamp. Subsequently.

and the profitability estimate based on its benefits was an increase of $1. The turnaround revamp activities were completed within the planned 31 day window. and the actual turnaround started on March 7. The improved control of the catalyst circulation with the wye section and slide valve replacing the “J-bend” and plug valve resulted in a reactor temperature 6 . and an increased riser residence time to address the conversion.4 MM. Detailed Engineering was started in June. The turnaround duration was planned for 31 days with two 10-hour shifts per day six days per week. with all equipment required for the project being procured. and on the mechanical constraint of limited catalyst circulation.• • • • Increase production of more valuable liquid products Address catalyst circulation limits Maintain same level of coke yield Provide flexibility for future changes in feed quality The team focused its effort in addressing the yield selectivity improvement that would be required to process a heavier feed while maintaining coke yield constant. Based on these economics. but re-start of the unit was delayed by greater than expected maintenance work in other areas of the unit and an unexpected problem with the main air blower. Preliminary engineering was started in March 2000 and long lead delivery items were requisitioned in May. The seventh day was reserved for critical path activities and x-ray inspection work.9 MM. and profitability issues. feed distributors and upper riser was $5. A new external side stripper was proposed to allow implementation of the revamp to a higher catalyst circulation rate and avoid the time consuming internal vessel work. wye section.2 MM per year for a simple payback of less than 15 months.4 MM per year for a one year simple payback. An economic analysis was performed based on installed cost estimates from IAG and yield estimates from UOP. When the unit was started. new feed distributors. reliability. Pre-turnaround activities not requiring unit shutdown were begun in January 2001. the refiner proceeded to the implementation phase of the project. a new supplemental reactor stripper was proposed to augment the existing stripper. The unit profitability estimate based on the heavier feed and new yields was $4. The original design incorporated an internal stripper and spent catalyst standpipe and was impossible to modify without extensive demolition and construction inside the vessel. The total installed cost estimate for the new external spent catalyst stripper was $1. To address the catalyst circulation limitations. the new equipment allowed greater control of the catalyst circulation rate and a nearly “flare-less” startup was accomplished with products on specification six hours after feed in. The team recommended replacing the existing riser “J bend” and plug valve with a “wye” section including catalyst acceleration. Figure 3 shows the changes to the catalyst section. Both of these existing items were addressed by bringing new technology upgrades to the unit design. The total installed cost estimate for the new regenerated catalyst standpipe.

8 14.5 9. In 1998.0 All of the revamp goals were met: • • • • Increased yield of higher value liquid products Improved operating flexibility Improved catalyst circulation control Obtained flexibility to process more aromatic feedstocks Part of the success of the revamp was due to a focused team accountable for the goals and execution of the project. Table 2 Feed Rate.2 72. the refiner decided to revamp the unit to increase capacity slightly.7 4.0 17. to increase the unit’s conversion and double the 7 . This provides a more consistent yield pattern and allows operation to be continuously closer to maximum.control of less than 1 °F variation compared to +/.3 °F previously.9 48.3 9.6 46.6 11.5 Post-Revamp 47. Table 2 shows the base case compared to the revamped operation. wt% C2 minus C3s C4s Gasoline. 430°F TBP EP LCO.7 4.9 5. 650°F TBP EP MC Botts Coke Conversion Base Case 48.250 BPD of fresh feed and started up in 1963 had been revamped several times to increase capacity and to incorporate various technology improvements3. wt% Cat/Oil Yields. The team stayed with the project for its duration ensuring the objectives were well defined and implementation was carried out as planned.75 0.1 6. wt% Feed Steam.1 2.69 0.000 24.2 1.4 11. The post revamp operation had an improved conversion and reduced coke yield per expectations. but more important.3 9.8 6.3 2. Case 3 A European FCC unit originally designed for 10.8 18.4 67. BPD Feed API UOP K Feed Con Carbon.3 6.450 24.1 2.

Ultimately. Conclusions All three of the FCC revamp examples show that innovative technology can be added to existing units to remove operating constraints and unlock the potential value of the FCC unit. Although the capacity and yield targets were met. and new reactor stripper internals. The catalyst losses were not sufficient to cause an immediate shutdown.propylene (C3=) yield. The significance of this particular story is that even with yield performance exceeding expectations.5 wt-% of feed. A new gas plant was also designed by UOP to accommodate the increased LPG product. the design incorporated the Optimix feed distributors. The complete story of the successful troubleshooting effort utilizing Six Sigma methodology and modern diagnostic tools has been told elsewhere3 and serves to underline the importance of a strong ongoing technical service function from the technology provider. The configuration of the reactor revamp is shown in Figure 4. The revamp case also included the use of a ZSM-5 additive to increase the LPG olefin yields at the expense of gasoline yield. any revamp project is not complete until every aspect of operation meets the satisfaction of the refiner. An experienced team of UOP FCC specialists and refinery personnel was assembled to work the problem. but were high enough to warrant an investigation and find a solution. The revamp design basis was set at 26. all aspects of the unit operation were not satisfactory. the actual losses of 3 to 5 tons per day indicated that something was wrong. Successful revamp projects are well focused. Catalyst containment in the reactor was not achieving its target as shown by catalyst present in the main column slurry product. The feed rate for the post-revamp test run was 27. have clear process and economic goals. the VSS riser disengager. The new VSS riser disengager was installed in the existing reactor shell to help minimize costs.815 BPD with a minimum C3= yield target of 8. There is a nearby petrochemical facility and capturing the C3= value had become a significant way to improve refinery profitability. have a planning cycle sufficiently in advance of the revamp to address all details.5 tons per day. the problem was resolved and catalyst losses from the reactor were reduced to well below the initial target. Figure 5 shows the trend of FCC products postrevamp as operating conditions and ZSM-5 additive were adjusted in the unit.2 wt-% of feed. From an initial target of 0. The revamp was implemented and the unit started operation in August 2000. To achieve this target. 8 .700 BPD with a C3= yield of 8. both above design values.

Warmann. Niewiedzial. T. refiner’s can capture the impressive profitability improvement of the FCC revamp. project execution and technical service. Andrews. Miller. W. “Modern Design and Troubleshooting Tools Create a Successful Revamp”. NPRA Annual Meetng. B.and incorporate execution plans that live by the old adage: “Plan the work and work the plan. NPRA Annual meeting. Henning. References 1. March 2002. AM-02-44 L. H. AM-00-24 J. A. 9 . D. A. AM-0254 2. NPRA Annual Meeting March 2002. 3. Lacijan. S. Rhemann.” Through attention to the critical success factors of technology design. Copeland. D. Stewart. “Effective FCC Revamp Management Leads to Substantial Benefits”. Dodds. McKinney. 2000. J. March. P. W. “Changes To Maintain FCCU Conversion”.

00 5.00 0. Urals Cracking US Gulf Coast.00 3.00 Mediterannean.Figure 1 Marker Cracking Margins (Source: IEA) 7.00 NW Europe.00 -1.00 2.00 4. $ / bbl 10 . Dubai Cracking Refining Margin. Brent Cracking 6.00 1. WTI Cracking Singapore.

Figure 2 New Reactor/Regenerator Section 11 .

Figure 3 Reactor/Regenerator Sectional Elevation BEFORE AFTER 12 .

Figure 4 VSS Riser Disengager for Stacked UOP FCC Unit Chamber Outlet Reactor Cyclone Disengager Arm Chamber Stripper 13 .

00 Dez.00 1.00 P RE RE VAM P P OST RE V AMP 540 520 500 O lefinsM ax 480 5.2 %w t PROPYLENE 7.00 G UARANTEE 8. 00 Feb.Figure 5 PRO PYLE NE YIELDS PRE/PO ST REVAM P 2000 PRO PYLENE O LEFINSM AX REACTO R TEM P 580 9. 00 Okt.00 VSS RE VAM P NEW G CU 3. 01 14 REACTOR TEMP DEG C 560 PROPYLENE %wt . 00 Jul. 99 Apr.